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Ring Slings and Mei Tais: The Yay to the Nay

Jan08

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the yay to the nayA few weeks ago, I entered the complex world of baby carriers. I started with a post on baby wraps and since then, I have been toting my newborn (edited to add: she’s currently six weeks old and 9lbs) around in various baby ring slings and mei tais. What’s a Mei Tai? Well, it’s not an alcoholic drink, that’s for sure. And I wouldn’t recommend tying one when you’ve had one too many either.

It’s important to note that I am no baby-carrying expert. So, I’m sure someone will read my review and say, well, she’s doing it wrong! But if that’s the case, then putting the baby carrier on wrong is a valid part of this review, too. If you are a babywearing expert, you don’t need a baby carrier review. This post is meant for people who are as new to this as I am and want to carry their baby in something that is easily wearable and safe for their baby.

(I actually went to a place called Metro Minis in New York City, to make all my purchases and get instruction on how to use them properly (you should go there if you live in the area!). Seeing a visual demonstration, whether in-store or by using baby wearing videos online, is key.)

Allow me to help….

1. Catbird Baby Mei Tai Baby Carrier Review

c. $83 – $90

CatBird Mei Tai Baby Carrier

Mei Tais (also known as Asian style baby carriers) are all very similar. They are sort of a middle ground between wraps and structured soft carriers like the Ergo or the Baby Bjorn. Their shape is similar to a structured carrier but instead of buckles, all closures are done with double knots. You will find no buttons, snaps, or hardware whatsoever on a Catbird Baby Mai Tei.

Basically, you double knot one strap around your waist, hold your baby close as you pull the carrier over the baby’s back and then throw the straps over your shoulder, criss-cross the straps and then bring them around the front, twist and then double knot in the back. Which, I now realize, is way easier than it sounds. Case in point, I only needed to be shown how to use it once before I got it down. And unlike a baby wrap or a ring sling, there is no room for error— I really can’t imagine any way that you could do it wrong (always double knot).

The Mei Tai baby carriers can accommodate newborns to toddlers up to 40lbs. They are comfortable enough for relaxed indoor use but also sturdy enough so that you feel safe using them outdoors.

The Catbird Baby Mai Tei comes in numerous colors and patterns— all reversible, so there is a pattern on one side and a solid on the other (you can find a wide selection of patterns at Metro Minis). Personally, I found the patterns to be very sophisticated and not babyish at all. I was drawn to a camel colored Mei Tai with an aqua and pink bold flower pattern (the Zoe pattern); a nice change from the utilitarian feel of most solid-colored structured carriers.

The fabric feels really high quality, the top is cushioned and easily bends forward to accommodate your baby comfortably, and can be worn both on the front (facing in or out), on the hip and on the back. For newborns, you can sit your whole baby inside the pouch. For older babies, you can let their legs hang out on either side of you.

CatBird also makes a fleece Mei Tai cover for the winter which I have used whenever I take the baby out of the house. But, it’s worth noting, it can accommodate any newborn carrier with shoulder straps, regardless of the brand.

Verdict on the Catbird Baby Mai Tei baby carrier: YAY

2. BabyHawk Mei Tai Baby Carrier Review

c. $90
BabyHawk Mei Tai Baby Carrier

Almost everything I said about the CatBird also rings true for the BabyHawk baby carrier, although there are a few differences. The most noticeable difference is the color and pattern options, so I’m sure many people pick their Mei Tai based solely on which pattern they like best. That’s not a bad thing to do— both the BabyHawk and the Catbird are great products.

If I have to differentiate, I would say the quality of the BabyHawk fabric feels slightly less premium than the CatBird. The pouch is a little smaller and the straps are not as wide. Plus the top of the pouch has a hard stiff cushion that does not mold as easily to your baby’s needs— particularly a newborn.

BUT— there is one big advantage that made me choose the BabyHawk baby carrier over the CatBird every time. It has a pocket in the front. The pocket is big enough for cash, a diaper, and a pacifier— meaning you can walk freely out of the house without a bag.

Verdict on the BabyHawk Mei Tai baby carrier: YAY

3. Sleeping Baby Ring Sling Review (using Girasol wrap fabric)

$129

sleeping baby girasol ring sling

Ring slings were my least favorite of all the types of baby carriers I tried over the past few weeks. They look very sophisticated on and they are easier to store since they use less fabric than a baby wrap, but they have the most room for error when putting them on.

First, it’s worth noting that ring slings are not recommended for use with your baby in a cradle position. They should sit upright just like they do in a Mei Tai carrier or baby wrap which makes putting a ring sling on correctly harder than you might think.

The most important thing is for the material around the ring to be untangled, in order and easy to move freely. This is all easier said than done. Even after watching an online video, when I did it my baby seemed to lean away from the ring making her head often fall precariously off to the side. If I pulled the ring sling tighter, it seemed like the material was going to cut into my baby’s neck. Maybe when the baby is a little older and can sit upright on her own, the sling will be easier to use. (She’s a six-week old newborn).

Bottom line, even though I had a hands-on tutorial and watched online videos a couple of weeks later to learn how to do it right, I am still not sure I ever got it. My baby is less than 9 lbs. so I am supposed to tuck her feet under the material and keep her in a little ball against my chest. The only problem is my daughter has acid reflux and doesn’t always want to pull in her feet, so she would lock her knees making it difficult for me to get her in the correct position.

Also, I was never able to keep the baby in the ring sling as long as some of the other baby carriers— both due to my baby’s comfort and mine. As much as they say correctly worn ring slings shouldn’t feel weighted to one side, I didn’t find that to be the case. You are holding your baby up by one shoulder and I definitely felt an imbalance and was constantly stretching my back as a result.

The Girasol wrap fabric has three colorways which aids in tightening the Sleeping Baby ring sling— something of utmost importance since you are trying to keep the wrap untangled. With the colorways, you can follow the stripes— outer stripe pulls the bottom close and inner stripe pulls the top close. The fabric is high quality and durable and it comes in great colors.

VERDICT on the Sleeping Baby Ring Sling: NAY

4. Sakura Bloom Baby Ring Sling Review

c. $88 – $200
sakura bloom baby ring sling

The Sakura Bloom Baby Ring Sling is used exactly the same way as the Sleeping Baby ring sling. The only difference is the fabric. The Sakura one I have and tried is reversible silk with a muted color on one side and a pop of color on the other (it also comes in fine linen). It looks beautiful on but it needs to be dry cleaned which definitely throws a wrench into an otherwise lovely product. Especially since my baby has acid reflux and spits up regularly.

That being said, the Sakura Baby Ring Sling in silk is made of a lightweight (yet sturdy) fabric and perfect for summer. Plus it can be easily stored or thrown into your bag without taking up too much space. It does not have the colorways of the Girasol version of the Sleeping Baby sling to guide tightening it, but I did find the fabric to pose less risk of getting tangled making tightening a little smoother than the Girasol ring sling.

But, the main disadvantage was that whenever I wore it, my husband would tell me he didn’t like the way our baby’s head was leaning to one side. He felt like her neck was not supported properly. I think when I first put on the sling, it looked correct but my baby was somehow able to shift inside the longer I wore her, to a less supported position.

VERDICT on the Sakura Bloom Baby Ring Sling: NAY

Obviously, I prefer the Mei Tai baby carriers to the baby ring slings. In fact, if you are going to get one baby carrier out of all the options (baby wraps, Mei Tais and ring slings), I’d get a Mei Tai baby carrier. It’s light enough to wear indoors and sturdy enough to wear outdoors. Plus, it’s great that it’s versatile and very easy to use. If you want to choose between the Catbird Mei Tai and the BabyHawk Mei Tai, it all depends on one thing— how important is a pocket to you?

If you are getting a Mei Tai baby carrier, I would also recommend getting the fleece CatBird Cover as outerwear. It’s an easy solution to keeping your child warm while toting him/her around, especially since it is not recommended to put a baby in a coat inside a carrier. Just don’t put on the cover until you leave the house. It’s very warm and you don’t want your baby to overheat.

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Photo sources: company websites and MetroMinis

About the author


http://www.mommyshorts.com
Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a popular NYC humor blog geared towards new parents. In addition to blogging, Ilana has worked as a creative in advertising for the past 15 years. She lives in the East Village of NYC with her husband, her two-year-old daughter and a rapidly growing pile of stuffed animals.


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14 Responses to “Ring Slings and Mei Tais: The Yay to the Nay”

  1. Hillary Jan 08 at 11:59 am Reply Reply

    I appreciate all of your disclaimers on this post – I think you should add up at the beginning that you have a 9lb baby! Trust me, as your baby grows, your preference for carrier will also shift. So it is really important to explain the type of baby you’re trying out all of these products with (i.e., size, weight, head control, etc.). Also, I’m surprised you’re not including cost in any of these reviews, as that seems like a valuable component in determining the yay/nay.

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Jan 08 at 12:29 pm Reply Reply

      Thanks for your feedback about the newborn’s weight– good point and i’ll add it in now. In terms of cost, it’s always listed right next to each product (it’s our standard procedure).

  2. Ally Jan 08 at 1:14 pm Reply Reply

    I love the baby hawk Mai Tai!!! I started using it when my kids were a few weeks old and used it consistently well past their first birthday. I love that it is comfortable to wear if you baby is in the front or the back. 

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Jan 08 at 3:49 pm Reply Reply

      Awesome! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. Shel Jan 08 at 2:17 pm Reply Reply

    One of the reasons I went with the BabyHawk is that they are available in extended sizes. I’m plus size, so I did a lot of looking before ordering the BabyHawk. I’m very happy with my choice.

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Jan 08 at 3:49 pm Reply Reply

      Thank you for sharing. This is terrific feedback on the product!

  4. Autumn Jan 08 at 3:44 pm Reply Reply

    I have the sakura bloom ring sling in the linen version.  It definitely got easier to position the baby once she had some head control.  It worked the best between 2 and 8 months.  And it folds up so small, it’s great for travel, I took it “just in case” on several trips and it made our lives much easier.  

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Jan 08 at 3:48 pm Reply Reply

      Great insight and product feedback. Thank you, Autumn!

  5. wendy Jan 09 at 2:25 am Reply Reply

    i was mei tei all the way til my babe was 10-12 mos old and then started using the ring sling, to hold her on my hip. i was still pulling out the ring sling for air travel when she was 2+, since i could put her on my hip, hands free (!), and then carry her carseat over my head to reach our seats on the plane.

    a friend made my ring sling (out of really lightweight fabric which was great in the summer, plus she made it extra long so you could use the tail to shield babe from sun). got my mei tei from an ebay seller, based on the fabric (just as you figured people would do!).

  6. Drew Jan 09 at 2:27 pm Reply Reply

    I’ll put in my 2 cents as a babywearing semi-expert :) I started out with a ring sling, and the way I wore my newborn was with his legs out, so the bottom rail of fabric created a seat for him, instead of legs tucked in. That might help your little peanut :) You also have to tighten up the middle as well as the top rail pretty tight, so they’re quite secure to your body. It’s a little tough with babies that don’t have good head and neck control, but once she’s a bit older, it might work better. There’s also an awkward stage with ring slings, from about 15 lbs until they’re much older, and can sit up on their own, and hug your body with their legs. Right now my son just feels like a super heavy bowling ball in our ring sling, so I wear him all the time in our wraps. Getting them on so they’re pretty high up on your torso (head in kissable range) is also key to keeping yourself comfy, and them safe. Getting one on one help with wearing your baby (like from a local babywearing meeting with other babywearing moms or a babywearing educator) is immensely helpful in figuring out different carriers, and which ones are right for you.

    I’d also encourage folks to buy their carriers from reputable babywearing stores (like the one you listed above) – the carriers sold there have been developed and produced under exacting safety standards, whereas ebay and the like often sell counterfeit carriers or carriers that do not meet safety requirements. Those carriers can be dangerous to use, as the fabric, seams, and buckles are not developed specifically for baby carriers. 

  7. Darryl Jan 16 at 2:28 pm Reply Reply

    Great post! I have just started using the babyhawk carrier with my 3 month old LO. I love it. It took me a few times of tying and re-tying the knots to be sure that they were secure – – but now I can put it on in seconds! 

  8. Mazlynn Jan 17 at 9:16 pm Reply Reply

    Yeah, carrier preference depends on so many things – your size and body type, your babies age and shape, what activities you’re using it for, etc. For my boys, I tended to start with the moby wrap – great for babies with little head control, since the wrap holds the very secure, and you can tuck them under one of the arms of the wrap to stabalize the head.

    As they get a little older, I tend to prefer the ring sling – it’s one of the only carriers I’ve ever figured out how to nurse in, and is very easy on and off, so it’s great for when you’re popping in and out of the car. I do like it better for babies who are a couple months old though, and have a bit more support. And yes, it does pull to one side – you’re supposed to switch sides, but I could never get the hang of wearing it on my “off” side. The ring sling never feels secure enough to be truley hands free at this age – it always feels more like “hand and a half free” as I usually use a free arm to brace the baby. On the other hand, this is the sling that let me stand in line at the DMV with a toddler in the stroller and a nursing baby in the sling and have pretty much no on notice! :)

    At this age the mei tei or ergo starts to work well too for a snuggly front ride.

    As the baby starts to get older, I tend to switch the ring sling to more of a hip carry while working so the baby can watch. I will also switch to a back carry on mei tei or ergo, as this is the age where they get tired of staring at your chest all the time and want to SEE! When they start fighting the carrier all the time, try switching to a high back carry and see if that helps.

    As the babies get older, it also gets harder to hold them in a carrier while sitting – that’s another place where I like ring slings. It would let me hold the sleeping baby cuddled against my chest relatively hands free while sitting so I could work at a computer,

    So yeah, for any given baby, expect to own at least two or three carriers over the course of their life for different ages and different activities!

  9. Mazlynn Jan 17 at 9:18 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, and Drew’s method is the one I like too – using the ring sling as more of a seat rather than in the full froggy mode!

    And fair warning, the moby has a steep learning curve – it pretty much needs to be demonstrated for you the first time, but once you figure it out it’s pretty awesome.

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